صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

philanthropists, the Colonization Society demands of those, who would judge with fairness, to examine dispassionately, not its history and details only, but its purposes and principles, not the failures which it may have suffered from accidents or inexperience, but the motives by which it is actuated, and the objects which it would attain. Such an examination we are disposed to give it. What has this Society done? What advantages can be expected from its success? Are its designs practicable ? By what means can they be best promoted ? To these general topics our inquiry shall be directed

The plan of colonizing the free people of color, in some place remote from the United States, originated in the legislature of Virginia nearly twenty years ago.

A correspondence on the subject was entered into between Mr Munroe, then governor of Virginia, and Mr Jefferson, President of the United States. The purpose of this correspondence is explained in a letter from Mr Jefferson, written ten years afterwards, and published among other documents appended to the First Annual Report of the Colonization Society. It appears, that the governor of Virginia, at the request of the legislature, consulted the national executive on the best means of procuring an asylum for the free blacks of that State, and of establishing a colony where they might assume a rank and enjoy privileges from which the laws and structure of society must forever prohibit them, in their present situation. Mr Jefferson proposed to gain them admittance into the establishment at Sierra Leone, which then belonged to a private company in England, or, in case this should fail, to procure a situation in some of the Portuguese settlements in South America. He wrote to Mr King, then our minister in London, to apply to the Sierra Leone Company. This application was made, but without success, on the ground that the Company was about to dissolve, and give up its possessions to the government. An attempt to negotiate with the Portuguese government proved equally abortive, and no further active measures were taken.

The legislature of Virginia, however, ceased not to hold fast its original purpose. The subject was from time to time discussed, till, in the year 1816, a formal resolution was passed, authorizing the executive of the state to correspond

New Series, No. 17. 6

with the President of the United States, soliciting his aid in procuring a situation for colonizing the free blacks, and such as might afterwards be emancipated. The senators and representatives in Congress from Virginia, were requested to lend their exertions in advancing this object. Mr Mercer, in his address at the first annual meeting of the Colonization Society, observed, that this resolution passed the popular branch of the legislature of Virginia with but nine dissenting voices out of one hundred and forty six; and a full quorum of the senate, with but one. It was, in fact, but a repetition of certain resolutions, which had been unanimously adopted by the same legislature, though in secret sessions, at three antecedent periods in the last seventeen years. It was truly the feeling and the voice of Virginia. The legislatures of Maryland, Tennessee, and Georgia, followed the example of Virginia, and adopted a resolution of the same import. The doings of these four states were mentioned with approbation in the report of a committee of Congress, although the great object at which they pointed, the plan of colonization under the patronage of the government, seems never to have engaged the deliberations of the national councils.

The first person, as far as we can learn, who conceived the notion of forming a society for colonizing the free blacks, was the Rev. Dr Finley of New Jersey. This gentleman had long felt a warm interest in the condition of this class of our population, and had consulted his friends on the best mode of providing for them a country and a home beyond the limits of the United States. He finally settled it in his mind, that Africa was the most suitable place for such a colony. In December, 1816, he went to Washington, where he began in earnest to put his plan in execution, wrote a pamphlet to recommend it to the public, applied in person to several members of Congress, and citizens of Washington, and at length succeeded in causing a few persons to listen to his representations and embrace his views. On the 21st of the same month, several gentlemen convened to consider the subject, when the meeting was opened by an address from Mr Clay, explaining its object, and setting forth the advantages, which might be expected to result from a colonization society. He was followed by Mr Randolph and other gentlemen, who accorded with him in sentiment. A committee. was appointed to prepare a constitution, which was adopted the week following, and Judge Washington, of the Supreme Court, was chosen president of the Society.

On Dr Finley's return to New Jersey, the legislature was in session at Trenton, and by his exertions, an auxiliary society was formed, which received the cordial support of several members of the legislature. About this time he was chosen president of Franklin College, at Athens, Georgia, to which place he soon after repaired. For some months his health had been on the decline, and he died, we believe, in Georgia, before the close of the next year. *

Immediately after the organization of the Society, it was determined to send out two agents to explore the western coast of Africa, and seek for the best position to commence a colony. Samuel J. Mills and Ebenezer Burgess were appointed to this enterprise, and they sailed for England in the latter part of November 1817. It was deemed advisable to visit England on their way, for the purpose of gaining a favorable reception at the colony of Sierra Leone, of establishing a friendly intercourse with the African Institution at London, and of obtaining such knowledge as would be essentially important in preparing them for their inquiries on the coast of Africa. By Judge Washington they were provided with a letter to the Duke of Gloucester, the president and zealous patron of the African Institution, who received them with kindness, proffered assistance, and expressed an interest in the benevolent undertakings of the American Colonization Society. Mr Wilberforce, whose name is so intimately blended with all the schemes of humanity, which the last thirty years have witnessed in favor of the degraded Africans, was assiduous in his attention to the agents, and active in forwarding their designs. He introduced them to Lord Bathurst, Secretary of State for the Colonial Department, who gave them a letter of introduction and recommendation to the governor of Sierra Leone. In their letters from England, the agents also acknowledged themselves under obligations to Lord Gambier, Lord Teignmouth, and many other gentlemen of eminence and worth, who approved their design, and from whom they received marks of kindness. While in London they were moreover furnished by Count Schimmelman, late minister of state in the kingdom of Denmark, with a letter from the Colonial Department of the Danish government, recommending them to the protection and assistance of the governors of the Danish Colonies in Africa.

* Dr Finley was educated at Princeton College, under the celebrated Dr Witherspoon. He was respected as a scholar, and esteemed as a faithful pastor, and amiable and benevolent man. His pamphlet above mentioned speaks well for his understanding and his education. See Memoirs of Dr Finley, page 82.

Under auspices thus favorable, they sailed from the Downs on the 2d of February 1818. They first landed at St Mary's, a village on the banks of the Gambia, and near its mouth. Ten days afterwards they arrived at Sierra Leone. Governor Macarthy was absent on a visit to the Gambia, and Lord Bathurst's letter was delivered to the Chief Justice of the colony. Shortly after their arrival, the agents met the principal members of what is called the Friendly Society, or an association composed wholly of colored people, instituted at the suggestion of the celebrated Paul Cuffee, and consisting for the most part of colonists whom he had carried out from the United States. These persons were highly gratified with the statements of the agents, and two leading men, Kizell and Martin, who were well acquainted with the country, offered to accompany them as interpreters and guides down the coast, introduce them to the chiefs, and assist in negotiating for lands in the island of Sherbro, or any other place which should be thought preferable. A sloop of fifteen tons was engaged, men sufficient to work it, all Africans, were employed, and provisions laid in for an absence of four weeks.

Thus equipped they sailed out of the harbor of Sierra Leone, and on the next day found themselves in sight of the Bananas. As the headman of these islands was understood to have some influence with the kings of the Sherbro, it was deemed good policy to pay their respects to him in passing ; and to make these the more acceptable, they were accompanied by the valuable consideration of a few bars of tobacco and gunpowder. Caulker, for this was the headman's name, was pleased with their tokens of respect, and promised his interest in their behalf. They next arrived at the plantains, where the headman, who had lived six years in England, received them very civilly, but expressed apprehensions that the colonists, if they once had footing in the country, might find it convenient to extend their territory too rapidly, and be troublesome to their neighbors. He cited the instance of Sierra Leone as a foundation for his fears, but on the whole was willing an experiment should be made."

Several other kings were visited on the way down to the Sherbro. The agents had the good fortune at Bendou to find not only Somano, the king of the place, but Safah, another king, whose dominions they would have been obliged to seek out. It was no sooner told to Somano, that two ambassadors from America desired an audience, than he summoned them to appear at the palaver house. When they approached, the king was seated in his place. “Safah soon made his appearance, marching along between the mud walled cottages, dressed in a silver laced coat, a superb three cornered hat, a mantle around his neck hanging nearly to the ground, blue bafta trowsers, considerably the worse for the wear, and without stockings or shoes. Somano was dressed in a common gown and pantaloons, with hat and shoes. After a formal introduction to the kings, and shaking hands with all the men and women collected around the palaver house, it was remembered that the presents were unluckily left on board the sloop, and the kings had no words to speak till these were produced. Kizell was despatched to bring them; but there was a greater difficulty yet to come. When the articles intended for the presents were spread before the kings, they discovered only one jar of rum. They refused to be moved by so small a temptation to open the palaver, insisting, that as there were two kings it was unworthy of their regal dignity to deliberate on affairs so important, without a bottle of rum for each. Kizell was again sent to the sloop, and all obstructions were removed by producing another bottle. The kings' ears were then unsealed, and they were ready to hear what their visitors had to propose. The notion of a colony did not strike them favorably; they had fears of encroachments; they referred to Sierra Leone, and spoke of a war growing out of that settlement, which deprived king Tom of his territory. No serious objections were raised, however, and the result was, that Somano and Safah would acquiesce in the decision of their superior, king Sherbro. It was only urged as indispensable, that should an arrangement be made, they should have, among other things, a silver headed cane, and especially a black borsetail, furnished

« السابقةمتابعة »